By: Sarah Rayner
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Published On: January 2012
Reviewed By: Cory Bickel
Reviewed On: January 5, 2012
One Moment, One Morning tells the stories of how three women experience the aftermath of a sudden death: the wife of the deceased, her best friend, and a stranger who happens to witness the death. Through these stories Rayner examines the interconnectedness of people, how they influence each other’s lives, and how coincidence works to forge bonds between strangers. She demonstrates how love and friendship can help people to rise above circumstance, and how tragedy can bring out strength and character that people never knew they possessed.
The novel begins as Lou witnesses a man having a heart attack on the 7:44 train from Brighton to London. She sees the tenderness in him during his last moments with his wife and then watches helplessly as others try and fail to revive him. Forced to exit the train before reaching London, she finds herself sharing a cab with Anna, another passenger. En route to London, Anna receives a phone call from her best friend Karen, and discovers that Karen’s husband Simon was the heart attack victim from the train. Anna hurries to join her friend at the hospital and takes Lou’s business card to settle the cab fare later. When Lou meets up with Anna again she finds herself drawn into Anna’s and Karen’s lives, helping them cope with the sudden tragedy. Simon’s death affects each woman’s life in different ways, and the narrative alternates between them to describe the events that follow: telling Karen’s children of their father’s death, the difficulties of organizing the burial arrangements, cooking for the wake, and attending the funeral. Karen’s memories of her life with Simon well up and illustrate how loving a relationship they had and the magnitude of the loss that she suffers. She struggles with guilt over Simon’s death, torturing herself with thoughts that she could have done more to prevent it. Anna does her best to help Karen, but has her own problems to face as she deals with her boyfriend’s drinking problem and the wild mood swings that accompany it. The difficulty of the situation illuminates what an unreliable and insufficient partner he is, and Anna is forced to make some hard decisions about their relationship. Meanwhile, Lou struggles with the complications of keeping her homosexuality a secret in her personal and professional lives. As she copes with witnessing Simon’s death on her own, she realizes the extent of her loneliness without a partner. The suddenness of his early death makes her realize that she must live her life genuinely so it will not be wasted. Ultimately the challenges they face unite the three women in deep friendship, and they have each other’s support as each of them, in their own way, must start a new life.
One Moment, One Morning is a deeply emotional and thoughtful novel. It contains as much introspection as it does action, yet remains absorbing and moving from start to finish. Rayner has a unique voice and reveals the inner lives of her characters in a simple and genuine tone, winning the reader’s sympathy without overwrought sentimentality. Her depiction of ordinary people overcoming a crisis with strength, goodness, and integrity, despite their various shortcomings, offers a refreshing and inspiring vision of human nature that is good for the soul.
Quill Says: One Moment, One Morning will give you a deeper appreciation for the loyal friends in your life and open you to the possibilities of the wonderful new people who could cross your path at any moment.